Name games
June 19, 2018

The school board in Richmond, Virginia, voted overwhelmingly on Monday night to drop the name of a Confederate leader from a local elementary school and rename it after the first black president. The 6-1 vote confirmed that J.E.B. Stuart Elementary School will be renamed Barack Obama Elementary School, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. "It would be pretty awesome to have an elementary school in Richmond named after Barack Obama," said Liz Doerr, the District 1 representative.

Quite a few schools across the country are named after Obama, although the Richmond elementary school will be the first in the state of Virginia. Last year, a school in Mississippi also swapped out a Confederate name for the name of the 44th president.

Not everyone was thrilled with the decision in Richmond. "I am disappointed that we did not honor a local hero," said Carol Wolf, who was involved in trying to rename the school in 2003. Other names under consideration included Henry Marsh Elementary, after Richmond's first black mayor, and Oliver Hill Elementary, in honor of a local civil rights attorney.

“And if we are honoring the Obamas," Wolf went on, "I would have preferred naming the school after Michelle [Obama] who was very active in this nation's schools."

Around 100 schools across the country still carry Confederate names, including 15 in the state of Virginia. Jeva Lange

July 14, 2015

The much anticipated release of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman has stirred up a lot of drama with its portrayal of Atticus Finch, the beloved moral lawyer and hero of To Kill a Mockingbird whose shadier, racist side is showcased in Lee's latest novel.

So what happens to all the sons named after the "good" Atticus, now? Amanda Nelson, the managing editor of Book Riot, weighed in about why she named her son after the lawyer — and their conversation to come:

I didn't name my son Atticus with the belief that he'd literally become a lawyer and fight this horrible bulls--t (though I would love it if he did). But I will do my best to ensure that both my boys are aware of the state of things and grow up to be men who make things better instead of worse. And they're functionally white (they are part Filipino, but not enough to show in their appearance), so making things worse would be so easy.

I've tied my son Atticus to this place with his name. I have no plans to ever leave the South, but I don't have that same expectation of my children. If and when Atticus leaves for wherever the grass is greener for him, he'll have to remember the troubled place he's leaving. It will rise up every time someone calls for him, and maybe he'll be tempted to be a little better, do a little better, that day. And no newer, lesser version of Atticus Finch can change that. [Book Riot]

Jeva Lange

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